Part 9: Episode IX: Grave ConsequencesEpisode IX: Grave Consequences
Back to it in Ardennes Forest. Fun fact: Ardennes is an actual real-world region in France... on the border of Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany with the closest edge around 200 miles north of Domrémy-la-Pucelle. But ehh... don't sweat the details! Or Lenny and his goons at the end of the previous update. We could turn right back now to the cave we just left and that whole lackey squad has evaporated into the ether, not to be seen again in this dungeon. But what we will (or at least I will) be seeing a lot of in this dungeon is...
Music: Vicious 1915 ~ Battle in Europe
...random battles, of course! We actually saw 66% of the trash mob roster in that forced fight earlier. There is only one more critter stalking the woods of Ardennes and that is this nightmare bee -- Zosim. Zosim is apparently a reference to Saint Zosimas of Solovki who is the patron saint of bees and beekeeping in the Russian Orthodox Church. I'm just going to assume this was an ancestor of The Pain.
Zosim the Xenomorph Headed Bee is an enemy with a trifling 28 HP which technically makes it the strongest of the three enemy types. Yuri can still take it out in one three-hit physical attack string, but still. Respect where respect is due. Beyond that, the hell wasp is slightly more dangerous due to its ability to inflict the Poison status with its attacks.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to go over the Status Abnormalities present in Shadow Hearts: Covenant. Almost all of them are returning from the first game with just a couple new additions:
- Poison - Each turn, a character loses a small amount of health. Mildly irritating for most of the game but spell trouble early on when everyone has embarrassing low HP values.
- Deadly Poison - Each turn, a character loses a large amount of health. New to Covenant. This will fuck up anyone's day taking off around a fifth of their HP per turn. Doesn't appear until later in the game.
- Paralysis - Character can only use items or defend. All other actions are blocked off. Probably one of the least harsh paralysis effects around considering the character in question can still heal themselves with consumables.
- Silence - Character cannot use magic/special abilities (this includes Fusion.) Bad news for magic caster oriented folks.
- Berserk - Character becomes uncontrollable. Will proceed to attack at will (including allies) and waste consumables. This only occurs if a character runs out of SP (Sanity Points.) Should be avoided at all costs.
- Confusion - Character attacks party. Friends don't let friends get Confusion.
- Petrify - Character cannot act at all. Big boy version of Paralysis.
- Evasion Down - As it says, reduces the Evasion stat. Which makes characters more vulnerable to getting hit/critical attacks. Also works like Slow in other RPGs and makes turns come up less often until it is cured. New to Covenant. Also, only appears in Covenant.
That's about all we need to concern ourselves regarding random battles. Across this dungeon, Yuri and the gang eventually all gained a single level. That should be helpful later should we run into troubles of the boss variety. But what are the chances of that happening?
Music: In Darkness of a Labyrinth ~ Dungeon
Now as for actually traversing this dungeon. Bucking the original game's trend of having like two to three map screens that the party goes back and forth twenty times to progress or sprawling copy and pasted mazes (well, OK maybe there are still a couple of those) Shadow Heart 2's dungeons have a bit more going on in them. Mostly. This one, in particular, has two distinct paths that lead to the end of the area. The whole dungeon is basically a big circle with some connecting tissue in the center and several small alcoves with goodies jutting out.
The thing is one of these two paths is much longer. If this area is a circle, we're starting in the southwestern corner of it. The exit is roughly due east.
So heading clockwise around the circle is gonna take a while longer. It's also a much duller path since the only scenery is a rock wall face for the most part with the only noteworthy bit of it being this treasure chest containing...
They don't make 'em like K&A Corp used to... We have no reason to lug around an industrial battery. At least not yet...
But if we continue up a hill, along a winding cliffside road, we eventually come to an old mining elevator that just so happens to need a battery to operate. We have well departed Koudelka's relevance, but there's still a tiny bit of survival horror DNA floating around in Shadow Hearts: Covenant.
Taking this elevator drops us off at a save point, beyond which is the end of the dungeon. If that seemed quick, that's just because I cut like five map transitions which all take 15-30 seconds to run through were there no random battles. We hit at least 1-2 random battles per map which each last at bare minimum about a minute. Also, there were several offshoot paths that lead to treasure (all just repeated consumables.) Furthermore, we could ride the elevator a second time to go to a hidden top floor to get an additional Leather Cap for Yuri so all three of our boys could be sporting horsehide hats.
The point is, that was fifteen minutes of dungeon crawling all together.
Anyway, that's one path. The path counter-clockwise from our starting point in the cave path is a much more scenic route with a lovely stream following along denser foliage.
There's quite a bit of loot scattered about the woods. But the only actually noteworthy thing we acquire is the Barbatos Crest located in a path not far into either of the two routes which connects them through the center if we wished to switch trails. This provides the magic spell Air Edge, which can imbue an ally with the Wind elemental class on their physical attacks. We're gonna stick that on Blanca as well since I like to keep elemental magic on characters with the same class. Also, we might want quick access to that spell in the near future and Gepetto is one of the slowest characters in the game.
After a bit of jogging through scenic rural France, Yuri and the gang come upon a raised bridge. The creek here seems to be all of about a foot deep but... I mean, there's a bridge right here. We may as well use it.
Of course, since this is a video game drawbridge in literally the middle of nowhere, miles from any civilization, the drawbridge controls work on video game puzzle logic where there are three switches and each one that is toggled will make another handle toggle as well.
We could resort to trial and error to figure out which handle manipulates which other levers. Or... the solution is to just pick every option in order down the list and we're done. Sure, why not?
Doing the puzzle correctly results in a Hit Area Expand to be lying on the end of the bridge near a save point (and the end of the dungeon just past it.) However...
If the player is particularly bad at puzzles/experimenting, there are a couple of additional scenes of Yuri being a doofus.
Why the hell is there even a draw bridge out here anyway? Are there tiny boats passing through here? This is dumb.
Gepetto wanders over.
It shouldn't be too hard if you can just figure out which lever's gonna move...
<turns to Gepetto> ...I hate having to use my head!
You don't have to tell me that.
Yuri continues messing with the control panel fruitlessly.
What?! Why are you looking at me like that?! Jeez, gimme a break! Why don't we just move any old lever...!
Isn't that what you'd been doing already?
Yeah, well I tried considering my choices. Now I'm just gonna jam on it willy-nilly. Puzzle solving is for nerds.
Yuri starts yanking levers rapidly.
That's just gonna make it even more confus
The bridge slams down.
<points at Yuri> A fluke! That was just a fluke!
Sure, probably. I don't care. Puzzles deserve no respect.
Having the game auto-solve the bridge puzzle results in that Hit Area Expand evaporating. No rewards for puzzle skipping Yuri. You'll never get ahead in life doing that. Look up a FAQ with a solution like a respectable adult. This game is old enough you can still easily do that. Meanwhile, I want to know where one goddamn Blue Orb is in Devil May Cry V and I have to float through a fifteen minute long Youtube video and now my recommendations have all decided I need 18 lore analysis videos or basement dwelling British goblins telling me why the game I am playing is actually bad. God DAMMIT, I just need to know an obscure spot to jump up to.
Ahem... Regardless of which of the two paths we took (I definitely didn't just do both) to arrive at this point, both converge in an open field where Yuri suddenly becomes extremely winded.
Hang in there. We're almost out.
*pant, pant* Lemme take a little break. I'm so... sleepy...
NEW Music: Holy Mistletoe ~ Graveyard (I love constant droning when I'm visiting a metaphysical mind palace.)
Yuri rises to his hands and knees and looks around.
The Graveyard. The one in my soul...
It's a lot flatter than I remembered. And... less gravey...
Yuri stands back up and starts walking forward.
What the hell...?
There's a tree here.
...Whoa! What's going on here inside my soul?!
<starts looking around frantically> Something strange is happening!!
I mean there were trees here before but this one is like... worrying, ya know?
Is it... because of that Mistletoe thing?!
<looks at source of light> W-what the?!
That's me growing there...!
...Is that good?
Hey! Hold on a minute! What the hell does this mean?! What's going on here?! Are you alive?! Are you?!
...Where the hell are your nipples? What does THAT mean?! And where are my legs? Is my junk a TREE now?!
This is bad. I'm starting to feel sick.
Yuri slumps to his knees.
What do I do now? I can't do soul fusion anymore either... <sighs>
That was like my one thing. What am I gonna do? Learn basic ass magic now? "Even a canine can do it"? What does he know...?
Yuri stands back up.
Guess I better have a look around in here. Inside my soul...
What a creepy tree. It looks like that Mistletoe thing could've come from it. That "me" growing in the trunk is breathing slowly, like it's sleeping or something.
Welcome back to the Graveyard. It is looking a touch different from its Shadow Hearts 1 incarnation. What with the Yuri tree and all the graves being reduced to floor textures.
Other than the Yuri Tree and the gate we arrived from, there are three other gates to be found in this area. The Graveyard is now cordoned off to several individual sections. The Gate of Death with Atman and The Four Masks hanging out talking shit to Yuri have all packed up shop and left town. They were a bunch of malicious curse creatures residing in Yuri's soul but they did stay true to their world after, you know, killing Alice and all. We won't be seeing any of them ever again. Those baddies just plain won and knew better than to show up for a sequel to potentially bungle their victory. I can respect that.
Anyway, let's get to exploring the Graveyard. Let's start with the door directly behind the tree.
What's that mean? You get lost if you go through? Hehe. Sounds like fun.
Unless it's like a dungeon or something... I don't think they could fit a dungeon in my soul. A boss fight, sure. But... a dungeon? Ehh...
The Door of the Labyrinth leads to another pair of gates. The entire Graveyard is now segmented into gates leading to other gates.
It doesn't budge.
Pretty thick door...
Yeah, this definitely isn't where the later game content special Fusions live. No sir. Let's double back to the Yuri Tree room and head toward the east this time.
Instructions from hell, is it? What in the world does that mean?
Well, let's head on in and find out.
Hey, I know! I bet their presence has something to do with why I can't do fusions anymore! Hehe!
Why do I suddenly have the chilling feeling that I'm gonna have to unlock all this crap... again...
Guess I'd better take a look!
There are three additional gates in this room. They're marked with a Water, Earth and Dark elemental symbol respectively. We'll just keep in mind these are over here and head back the way we came to check out the western gate next to that bark butt Yuri.
Instructions from heaven, maybe? What's that all about?
Over here in the Heaven's Commandments region, we have Fire, Wind and Light elemental crests marking three more gates.
At this point, we're given free rein to pick one these elemental gates. They're all unlocked but for now, we can only interact with one element of our choosing. If you cannot guess, this is going to lead to which Fusion Yuri will unlock first. Today, we're going to go with the Fire element for our initial unlock.
Any of them are perfectly viable and we'll be unlocking them all eventually. It's just that the Fire element Fusion is the strongest initial one in regards to physical attacks and with our limited toolkit and miniscule MP reserves at the moment, "punches good" is probably our best bet. Earth element is also a decent choice since it has the best defense initially and is only a wee bit weaker than Fire physically. Wind could also be a respectable choice as well since spoiler: We're fighting an Earth elemental boss at the end of this dungeon.
Soul Energy is back as a mechanic and is once more tied to unlocking Fusions. A HUGE goddamn improvement to Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the fact that Soul Energy is just a universe currency now dropped by all enemies.
In the original Shadow Hearts, Soul Energy came in six different flavors, one for each element. Enemies of their corresponding element would drop elemental Soul Energy and what have you when slain. The thing was, Shadow Hearts 1 started off extremely linear for the first ten hours or so with nearly every dungeon being a one-off event. This would lead to issues with large stretches of the game where some elements just plain did not appear and if you didn't happen to reach a Soul Energy threshold to unlock a new Fusion when certain elemental enemies were available, you were just SOL for a good stretch of the game. It sucked and led to a lot of frustration grinding, especially trying to max out elements for end game Fusions (as was a requirement) where the developers just kind of forgot to include many of certain elements. Looking at you, Earth Element.
But don't worry about that anymore. It's all been streamlined. Universal Ammo? Goddamn terrible idea. I'm still salty about pre-ordering Deus Ex: Invisible War to this day. Universal Soul Energy? Great! I'll take just general grinding over "grind this one specific enemy in a potential pool of four different encounters in this dungeon" any day.
In any event, we need to pump 40 Soul Energy into this altar. All initial Fusion unlocks are 40 Soul Energy, so we could actually unlock two Fusions right now. Except we're about to be auto-forced out of the Graveyard.
Wh-what the...? What the hell was that flash?! Unh! S-something is flooding into me!
Fight fills your heart once again...
And so we gain our first Fusion -- Karyl. Also an improvement in Shadow Hearts: Covenant is the fact there is no longer a crappy piss easy leveled mini-boss encounter against the Fusion in question when unlocking a new Fusion Soul. It just gets dumped in Yuri's lap as soon as he pays the Soul Energy toll. No fuss involved.
Okay, I get it. All I have to do is beat monsters out in the real world, collect their souls, and come back here! If I revive the other classes the same way, I can do fusions with them too.
I'm getting some real déjà vu here. But... I do like transforming into monsters. Guess it just is what it is...
This time around Soul Energy is not only used to unlock Fusions, but it is also used to buff Fusion power. We can pump more Soul Energy into our Fusion boys to level 'em up to nine times.
For instance, Fusion into Karyl at Level 1 results in a stat boost for Yuri of:
- Strength +5
- Vitality +5
- Agility +0
- Intelligence +3
- Power +3
- Luck +4
- Strength +10
- Vitality +11
- Agility +4
- Intelligence +8
- Power +7
- Luck +6
Edit: To clarify, dumping points into Karyl counts towards all of its replacements in the Fire elemental class too. It's not JUST buffing Karyl and having to restart leveling the Level 2/3 Fusions. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
Karyl also comes with a pair of special skills.
Rage increases Physical Attack power of one character by 30% (36% for hitting the Strike Area of the Judgment Wheel.) Just like in the first Shadow Hearts, this ability is pretty good. But Fusions, in general, are MUCH more balanced this time around, so we won't be spamming the one Punch Better attack for every single fight for a third of the game's run time. Mostly...
Blaze is a fire element magic attack that targets a single enemy for six hits. This is pretty decent if used in a Combo to rack up a decent tally. I mean, had we other characters that could hit more than 1-2 times in the active party.
That's about all we can do in the Graveyard for now. Let's head back on out to the main room, where...
...Wake up! Wake up!!
Video: Episode 9 Highlight Reel
Karyl Fusion Concept Art - This looks like some dude Kratos ripped in half in one of the earlier God of War games.